Category Archives: Choral music

Three Things I Learned from Gregg Smith

You Are Most Welcome

JeffQuartets

One of 15 commissioned by The Crossing to honor the memory of their co-founder Jeffrey Dinsmore, I chose the text of my setting from his emails to me. Jeff passed away two years ago, much too soon. Donald Nally, The Crossing’s conductor, is of course their most visible leader. But he has said that Jeff, with whom he started the group 11 years ago, was the real behind-the-scenes drive, filled with ideas and energy. He was also the possessor of a beautiful, softly luminous tenor voice which I loved to hear.

Our instructions were to write short, unaccompanied, non divisi SATB works, so that they could be sung by a choir or by four people. You Are Most Welcome comes in at about three and a half minutes.

I forget, now, who the “him” is in the text, but I think it was either a poet or perhaps Richard Stone of Tempesta di Mare, during The Waking Sun project. The shots “from the recording” and the “higher resolution” refer to photographs Jeff took during the recording of Vespers.

Our daughter Priscilla, a member of Piffaro, was there, and I remember that photograph well. Jeff took it at the dessert-and-things reception laid out after the third and last night of recording the choir, a night interrupted by thunderstorms and power outtages, with the last bit of Vespers to be recorded—Psalm 27—the gnarliest and most difficult chunk left until the end. We just—just—got it finished by the 10 pm deadline, chewing through it phrase by phrase, sometimes bar by bar, the tension building alongside an intense calm the more difficult it got.

Yes, we all looked relieved, and Jeff was as cool and professional and happy as anyone.

Priscilla, ersatz raconteurThe night of the premiere of this and the 14 other works, 8 July 2016, at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, was a loving and moving remembrance of Jeff, who we miss still. While most of the evening’s works were performed by the full choir, Donald chose four singers for You Are Most Welcome, opening the concert with it. Thank you, Donald. Thank you, Jeff’s love Rebecca Siler, and Maren Brehm, Steven Bradshaw, and Dan Schwartz.

Philadelphia Inquirer review: “Kile Smith’s You Are Most Welcome musicalized e-mails from Dinsmore showing how a peripheral glance at a personality can reveal things that a more earnest portrait does not.”

You Are Most Welcome
music by Kile Smith
text by Jeffrey Dinsmore, from emails written to the composer

You are most welcome.

I hope all is well in the new year for you.
I know you aren’t finished yet,
but would you mind taking
a few minutes to chat with him?

I can give you much higher resolution.
I shot all the ones from the recording
so you can use whatever.
You can use whatever you want.
I love the shot of you and your daughter,
and yes, you look relieved.

On the way to you.

Should be soon.

Hope all is well.

Best,
Jeff

YouAreMostWelcomeP1a

Diners and Concerts: You Just Never Know

[First published in Broad Street Review 15 May 2016 and reprinted here by permission.]

Illustration for Broad Street Review by Mike Jackson of allrightmike.com

A diner is a diner, but you never know. In Cincinnati for concerts of Canticle, a new choral work of mine, I spied a diner in an indoor mall near the downtown hotel where I was staying. When I peeked in and saw peninsulas of counters bordered by padded stools, and when I saw waitresses wearing crisp, collared uniforms, with receipt books and straws at the ready in their apron pockets, I knew where I’d be having breakfast all week.

I don’t need to look at the menu; I already know what I want and I know they’ll have it. Scrambled eggs are what I want in a diner, and whether to accompany them with pancakes or French toast and bacon or sausage are my only decisions. Grapefruit juice, yes, which, oddly, I only ever drink in a diner. Of course, coffee, which is never in a diner what you would call fantastic, but which sometimes does the trick.

Even though I don’t need to, however, I always do look at the menu, and for two reasons. One is because, as I already said, you never know. A Greek-owned diner will have moussaka, but you wouldn’t know Greeks run it until you look at the menu. I’ve never had moussaka for breakfast, but it’s a good thing to know that you could have moussaka for breakfast if you wanted, don’t you think? In the south, grits, you bet, but not just the south. You can get grits in Hatboro. If you see chorizo sausage in a diner, get it, for no other reason than that diners have had chorizo before chorizo was a thing.

So on this, my first morning in Cincinnati, I sat at a counter and retrieved the menu from its metal clasp behind the salt/pepper/sugar/sugar-substitute caddy, and in the list of sides of breakfast meats I saw bacon, ham, Canadian bacon, sausage links, and sausage patties. And “goetta.”

Goetta. Hello.

In all my days I had never seen the letters of my native language arranged in this order. I stared at this word and slowly a smile crept across my face. I placed the menu down softly and looked up. Even though I didn’t know what goetta was, I knew I would order goetta. Anything on a menu I’ve never had is what I will order, and that’s the second reason I always look at the menu.

Getting into goetta

The crisp waitress, having already come by with the coffeepot as soon as I sat down, greeting me with, “Coffee?” (I said yes, and it was good…“no way,” I whispered to the cup), now came back.

“What can I get you?” She spoke in that welcoming Kentucky recitative, her question starting high on “What,” descending to “get,” and flipping back up again on “you.”

“Two scrambled eggs, French toast, and…,” taking a stab at saying “goetta,” said, “goat-uh? What is that?” I pointed to the list of meats.

She looked up from her receipt book. “Gedda.” Then she said, thoughtfully, “It’s meat….”

“It’s” descended to “meat,” which went down and then up again, but it stopped before it went as high as I thought it might. Her voice trailed off, signaling that whatever she was considering saying next was either too wonderful for me to grasp, or too difficult for her to relive. But the coffee had put me in an expansive mood, so in as encouraging a tone as I could muster, I said, “Uh-huh?”

Emboldened, she continued. “It’s ground beef,” she hesitated. “And ground pork,” halting again. “And,” running out of steam, she tried another angle, asking flatly, “Ever had scrapple?”

My eyes lit up. “Oh yes,” I answered helpfully, “I’m from Philadelphia, and I love scrapple!” This really doesn’t follow logically, since half of Philadelphians can’t stand scrapple.

“Well then,” she said, recovering her professional assurance, “you’ll like goetta.”

“Great!” I said, remembering as she turned, “and a small grapefruit juice?”

“Sure thing,” she said over her shoulder.

And it was great. Goetta is a lighter tan than scrapple, with a milder, earthy spice. Oat grains, instead of corn meal, hold it together, making it chewier. I later discovered that half of Cincinnatians can’t stand goetta. I felt at home.

The grapefruit juice factor

That week I loved other Cincinnati foods: Graeter’s ice cream, and spaghetti blanketed with chili blanketed with cheddar—with oyster crackers on the side—who knew? Whenever I’m anywhere, I look for the things that are there and not anywhere else.

I look for that in live music, too. There’s always that grapefruit juice factor, something that you get only in a concert. At the second of the Canticle concerts, at a section beginning with the words, “The little white dove has returned to the ark with an olive branch,” the choir hit a new level of honesty and intensity. I knew the music, of course, but I warmed inside at the commitment and love of these singers and this conductor.

And just then—right there, at those words—a bird started singing, loudly and liquidly and beautifully, outside an open window of the church. Beaming, incredulous smiles broke over the singers’ faces. I thought they would stop singing; the bird was that loud. We talked about it later, struggling for words. Audience members thought I had added a birdsong recording, like the one in The Pines of Rome; they told me that, I’m serious.

Something always catches you in a concert, if you pay attention. Performers glow with love or they beam at words that go deeper than we know. In your own piece, you think you know what happens next, but, well… you order scrambled eggs, and a bird sings. A diner is just a diner, but sometimes you talk to your coffee, and sometimes there’s goetta, and sometimes, as I said, you just never know.

Enkindling Love, by Gillian T. W. Ahlgren

EnkindlingLoveBefore Wednesday’s rehearsal of Canticle the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati and Craig Hella Johnson brought in a special guest to speak to the musicians and a few friends of the group. VAE invited Gillian Ahlgren to speak to us about St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.

Dr. Ahlgren teaches at Xavier University in Cincinnati, where she is Professor of Theology and the newly appointed Director of the Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice. She is an internationally-recognized scholar of Teresa of Avila, having written three books on this great mystic saint. Her newest book, just released, considers the intellectual and spiritual relationship between St. Teresa and the author of the text I set for Canticle, St. John of the Cross.

Ahlgren’s brief talk was scintillating and enlightening, and I realized that I had never seen anything like this before. Pre-concert lectures are often seen (for better or worse) nowadays, yet I’ve never known of an organization that brought in someone to speak to the musicians. It was such a simple and thoughtful gesture on the part of VAE to allow the singers and instrumentalists to enter more fully into the text they were proclaiming. I was deeply impressed.

It’s one of a growing number of things that impresses me about VAE, Craig Hella Johnson, and their staff and board.

Here are the notes for Canticle. Commissioned by the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, Craig Hella Johnson, Music Director, it’s for SATB choir, three cellos, and one percussionist playing vibraphone, bass drum, tambourine. It’s about 65 minutes long. The text is A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ by St. John of the Cross (1542–1591). It premieres 30 April 2016, Lakeside Presbyterian Church, Lakeside Park, Kentucky, and 1 May 2016, Old St. Mary’s Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Canticle

Canticle. Commissioned by the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati, Craig Hella Johnson, Music Director. SATB, 3 cellos, 1 percussionist playing vibraphone, bass drum, tambourine. 65′. Review

Premiered 30 April 2016, Lakeside Presbyterian Church, Lakeside Park, Kentucky, and 1 May 2016, Old St. Mary’s Church, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Text: A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ by St. John of the Cross (1542–1591), translations by David Lewis (1864), with corrections by Benedict Zimmerman, O.C.D. (1909), and, in the Catholic Treasury, updates of pronouns added by Harry Plantinga (1993/5, public domain). A few minor alterations were introduced by me after reference to the original.

VelazquezHeadStag

Head of a Stag (1634). Diego Velázquez, 1599–1660

Canticle is a setting of the great mystical work of St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom Christ, or as it’s often and simply known, the Spiritual Canticle. The 40-stanza poem is revered as one of the great religious and literary works of the 16th century. Following the tradition of the biblical Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), St. John personifies, with symbolic and beautiful imagery, the journey of the soul, through the travails of the world, to union with her bridegroom.

Though John of the Cross is a revered Christian saint (he also wrote what is known as The Dark Night of the Soul), he does not mention Christ in the Spiritual Canticle, nor does he delineate any theology. It abounds with religious symbolism, but like the Song of Solomon from the Torah, it is a poem with universal appeal. Adherents of all spiritual and meditative disciplines will immediately recognize the dangers, delights, side-steps, ecstasy, and peace described in the Spiritual Canticle.

Canticle is composed for choir with three cellos and one percussionist playing vibraphone, bass drum, and tambourine. Lasting just over an hour, it follows the three sections laid out by St. John, each prefaced by a short instrumental statement. These Meditations use an old Swedish Sanctus, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” played by one cello in the opening, then two cellos in imitative counterpoint to open Section Two, then three at the beginning of the last section, all accompanied by vibraphone.

Section One, The Search for the Beloved, covers about one-third of the length of the piece, but Section Two, Preparations for Perfect Union, takes only half that time, leaving about a half-hour, or one-half of the total duration, for Section Three, Full Union. These sections and any movements headed by titles (The Bride, The Bridegroom, Question of the Creatures, Answer of the Creatures) were so designated by St. John.

Since the poem is in 40 five-line stanzas (each of which in the Spanish follow the same rhythm and rhyme scheme), I early decided to combine them into various groupings. I hoped to complement the logic and tempo of the narrative—for it is a narrative, however symbolic and mysterious—while allowing the various musical settings to have their own way. A few verses stand by themselves, and one is split into two parts (Nos. 8 and 9 here), just as in the poem.

Since the lion’s share of the text given to a character is the Bride’s, it wouldn’t do to assign the Bride to the women and the Bridegroom to the men. Either the men wouldn’t have much to sing at all, or the words would have to be unbalanced with repetition, an intolerable burden on an already long text. Besides, since we are all the Bride seeking the Bridegroom, we must all be able to partake in the representation, so the choral parts and occasional soloists from within the choir are used in whatever manner that seemed appropriate musically.

St. John himself wrote an exhaustive commentary on his own work, clearly explaining all the imagery and symbolism. Here is a good online resource. Much of the language will be familiar to anyone who has read mystical literature or metaphysical poetry, but still, there are some difficulties.

The foxes in No. 10, for instance, are those thoughts or intrusions that would destroy the garden or its fruit. In No. 13, “where your mother was corrupted,” “mother” is our human nature which dies, but which the Bridegroom redeems. (This is the only place where I transposed a line for musical purposes, here from the fifth line of the original stanza 23 to the second line.) In No. 14, “if you found me dark before,” as in the similar Song of Solomon passage, refers to a peasant—tanned or swarthy by working under the sun in the fields and vineyards—who is noticeably darker than someone of high rank. Aminadab in No. 18 is Satan, who, by the end, is nowhere to be found.

At times the inspiration of the Spain of St. John of the Cross may be guessed at. Plucked cellos may be reminiscent of a guitar, the tambourine may recall a dance, and the swaying twos against threes may bring to mind music from the late Renaissance. The juxtaposition of spirituality and earthiness, each echoing and symbolizing the other, will be found here, as it is in music from that time. More than feints, however, toward this or that musical landmark are not to be found, I don’t believe.

My love of modes will be evident. There isn’t too much by way of musical riddles, but text-painting is everywhere. In No. 6 “O crystal spring,” the women’s voices mirror themselves and likewise do the men’s; the “if only” imitative part gradually spreads out as ripples.

Music, lending voice and texture to words that they themselves cannot denote, is nevertheless hindered. From the many layers of meaning that St. John of the Cross points to in his commentary, I might focus on only one or two in each stanza as I chose a musical tapestry. But music, like love, will provide its own reasons, and in this I rest, hoping that there may be untapped surprises and comfort in any performance of Canticle.

 

I. The Search for the Beloved

  1. Meditation
  2. The Bride: Where have you hidden yourself

•    Where have you hidden yourself,
and abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You fled like the stag,
after wounding me.
I ran after you, crying; but you were gone.
•    O shepherds, you who go
through the sheepfolds to the hill,
if by chance you see him
whom I love the most,
tell him I languish, suffer, and die.
•    In search of my Love,
I will go over mountains and riverbanks,
and gather no flowers,
and fear no beasts,
and pass by the mighty and the frontiers.

  1. Question to the Creatures

•    O forests and thickets
planted by the hand of the Beloved!
O verdant meadows
enameled with flowers!
Tell me, has he passed by you?

  1. Answer of the Creatures

•    Pouring out a thousand graces
he quickly passed these groves,
and having looked at them,
with only his image
clothed them in beauty.

  1. The Bride: Alas! who can heal me?

•    Alas! who can heal me?
Give yourself at once to me,
do not send me
any more messengers today
who cannot tell me what I want.
•    And all who wander sing to me
a thousand graceful things of you,
yet they wound me more and more,
and leave me to die,
of I know not what, from all their stammering.
•    But how do you persevere,
O life, not living where you live,
and being brought near death
by the arrows you receive
from your imaginations of the Beloved?
•    Why, after wounding
this heart, have you not healed it?
And why, after stealing it,
have you abandoned it,
and not carried away the stolen goods?
•    Quench my troubles,
none can soothe them.
Let my eyes behold you,
for you are their light,
and I will keep them for you alone.
•    Reveal your presence,
and let the vision and your beauty kill me.
Behold, the malady
of love is incurable
except in your presence and before your face.

  1. O crystal spring!

•    O crystal spring!
If only on your mirrored surface
you would suddenly bring forth
those desired eyes
which are outlined deep in my heart!

 

II. Preparations for Perfect Union

      1. Meditation
      2. Turn them away, O my Beloved!

•    Turn them away, O my Beloved!
I am on the wing.

      1. The Bridegroom: Return, my Dove!

Return, my Dove!
The wounded stag
looms on the hill
in the air of your flight and is refreshed.

      1. My Beloved is the mountains

•    My Beloved is the mountains,
the solitary wooded valleys,
the strange islands,
the resounding rivers,
the whispering amorous breeze;
•    The tranquil night
at the approaching dawn,
the silent music,
the murmuring solitude,
the supper reviving and enkindling love.
•    Catch us the foxes,
for our vineyard is in flower;
while we make an intricate
wreath of roses
let no one appear on the hill.
•    O killing north wind, cease!
Come, south wind, that awakens love!
Blow through my garden,
and let its odors flow,
and the Beloved will feed among the flowers.
•    O nymphs of Judea!
While among the flowers and the roses
the amber spreads its perfume,
tarry on the outskirts,
and do not touch our thresholds.
•    Hide yourself, O my Beloved!
Turn your face to the mountains,
and do not speak,
but regard the companions
going with her through strange islands.

      1. The Bridegroom: Swift-winged birds

•    Swift-winged birds,
lions and fawns and bounding does,
mountains and valleys and river banks,
waters, winds, and heat,
and the terrors that keep watch by night;
•    By the pleasant lyres
and the siren strains, I conjure you,
let your fury cease,
and touch not the wall,
that the bride may sleep more securely.

 

III. Full Union

      1. Meditation
      2. The bride has entered

•    The bride has entered
the sweet garden of her desire;
she rests in delight,
resting her neck
on the sweet arms of the Beloved.
•    Beneath the apple tree
where your mother was corrupted,
there were you betrothed;
there I offered you my hand,
and redeemed you.

      1. The Bride: Our bed is in flower

•    Our bed is in flower,
by dens of lions encompassed,
hung with purple,
made in peace,
and crowned with a thousand shields of gold.
•    In your footsteps
maidens run along the way;
the touch of the fire
and the spiced wine
cause the divine balsam to flow in me.
•    In the inner cellar
I drank of my Beloved,
and when I went abroad
over all this valley I knew nothing
and lost the flock I followed before.
•    There he gave me his breast,
and taught me the science of sweetness.
And there I gave to him
myself without reserve;
there I promised to be his bride.
•    Now I occupy my soul
and all my substance in his service;
I no longer guard the flock,
nor have I any other work:
My every act is love.
•    If, then, on the common land
I am no longer seen or found,
you will say that I am lost;
that, stricken by love,
I lost myself, and yet was found.
•    With flowers and emeralds
gathered on cool mornings
we shall weave garlands
flowering in your love,
and bound with one hair of my head.
•    You considered
that one hair fluttering on my neck;
you gazed at it upon my neck;
you were captivated,
and wounded by one of my eyes.
•    When you regarded me
your eyes imprinted your grace in me;
for this you loved me ardently;
and thus my eyes deserved
to adore what they saw in you.
•    Despise me not;
for if you found me dark before,
you truly now you can look at me,
since you regarded me,
and gave me grace and beauty.

      1. The little white dove

•    The little white dove
has returned to the ark with an olive branch;
and now the turtledove
has found its longed-for mate
by the green river banks.

      1. In solitude she lived

•    In solitude she lived,
in solitude she now has built her nest,
in solitude he guides her,
alone, he, who also bears
in solitude the wound of love.

      1. The Bride: Let us rejoice

•    Let us rejoice, Beloved,
let us go forth to see ourselves in your beauty,
to the mountain and to the hill,
where the pure water flows,
and farther, deep into the thicket.
•    We shall go at once
to the deep caverns in the rock
which are so well concealed.
There we shall enter in
and taste the juice of pomegranates.
•    There you will show me
what my soul has been seeking,
and then you will give me—
you, my life, will give me there—
what you gave me on that other day:
•    The breathing of the air,
the song of the sweet nightingale,
the grove and its beauty
in the serene night,
with a flame that is consuming and painless.

      1. No one saw it

•    No one saw it,
nor did Aminadab appear.
The siege relaxed,
and the cavalry,
at the sight of the waters, descended.

Residency at Greenville College

Greenville2

Jeff Wilson rehearsing the College Choir

What a great three days I enjoyed in Illinois as the guest composer for the 32nd annual Greenville College Schoenhals Fine Arts Symposium. A Thursday night concert and a Friday morning college chapel performance of seven pieces wove around seven classes, a composer master class, rehearsals, a coaching, a reception, a tour of the college radio station… and lots and lots of eating.

Anthems O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, The Word of God, and God So Loved the World, along with last year’s commission from Lyric Fest and Singing City, The Heavens Declare, were sung gorgeously by the Greenville College choirs and the Greenville Free Methodist Sanctuary Choir, all excellently prepared and conducted by Jeff Wilson, who along with being the Director of Choral Activities and Music Department Chair at GC, directs the music at the church.

Chris Woods, who teaches music theory, composition, low brass, and is an excellent bass trombonist, led the brass quintet in two works of mine, a newly refurbished St. Theodulph March (on the hymn tune to “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”) and my arrangement of Benedetto Marcello’s Psalm 19. They also used the brass arrangement I had made for O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and one I put together two weeks ago for The Word of God.

Soprano Caitlin Hadeler sang brilliantly my Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, with riveting accompaniment by Catherine Burge. I was so happy to have met Catherine a couple of months ago for coffee on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, where we talked over the songs; she was in town for a workshop. Caitlin is brand-new at the college and simply won everyone over with her reading of these fairly challenging songs, and surprised me by doing them from memory (after using music at the rehearsal). Good show!

O Come, O Come, EmmanuelThe Word of God and The Heavens Declare were repeated for the chapel, where I also spoke about what it’s like to be a composer with faith in a world that is often without it. I chose the text of John 21:1–14, wondering why on earth John would tell us that there were 153 fish in the net. The Schoenhals Symposium was founded to explore the interaction of creativity and Christian faith.

Chris Woods was my second composition teacher, back when I was beginning my college career at Philadelphia College of Bible, now Cairn University. He is as humble, unassuming, supportive, and spiritual a soul now as he was then. And he still rocks the bass trombone. I was blessed to have known him then, honored to know him now, and thankful to have shared a few days with him. I’m so glad we renewed our friendship a few years back.

Sarah Todd accompanied the choir beautifully; thanks to her and to all the staff at GC who put the details together to make this happen. Thanks to the faculty for inviting me into their music, theology, and communications classes, and to the church choir for letting me insinuate myself into their bass section at rehearsal! A special thanks to the Schoenhals family—specifically, Carolyn and Dale Martin—for their support, their warm welcome, and for keeping such an enriching idea alive. Greenville’s a great place to be.

Greenville1

Concert sound-check

 

Grandmother’s Garden

Grandmother’s Garden. Text: Grandmother’s Garden, the children’s book by John Archambault. 2-part Children’s Choir, Piano, opt. C Instrument, 9′.

GrandmothersGardenCommissioned by Settlement Music School, Philadelphia, in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the Gleeksman-Kohn Children’s Choir, Rae Ann Anderson, director. Premiered April 10th, 2016, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Cherry Hill, N.J. and May 1st, 2016, First United Methodist Church (Germantown), Philadelphia.

I was honored to be asked to celebrate the choir’s 10th Anniversary by setting this book. I was so taken with the text and illustrations that the musical ideas came to me very quickly—and that does not happen often. The magic of the book, I think, is in the realization and acceptance of two opposing thoughts, that we are all separate, and that we are all together. We are all different, and all the same. Each thought is made stronger by the acceptance of its opposite.

The book makes it real by picturing our fingers in the soil, by picturing our faces rising to the sun—while time stands still. The individual names and countries are sources of pride; there is nothing wrong, and everything right in that. At the same time, there is pride in our togetherness. All different, all the same, all in one garden.

Grandmother’s Garden plays a part in my essay Patriotism and Music, first published in Broad Street Review.

GrandmothersGarden.p3Roses, carnations, chrysanthemums—
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
She tenders us, gentles us, nurtures us with care.
Born from the earth with water and air,
Born from the earth with water and air.
Earth is a garden turning ’round the sun,
With room to bloom for everyone.
We’re all flowering faces reaching for the sun.

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

Grandma Rose used to say to me,
“Feel the earth on your hands and knees.
Till your fingers through the soil ’til the time stands still,”
In Grandmother’s garden.
It all starts from a tiny seed.
A little patch of earth is all we need.
Fresh river water or falling rain,
A little bit of sunshine and lots of love.
A little bit of sunshine and lots of love.
Different colors, different faces, different names—
Underneath our skin, we are all the same.
We are flowering faces reaching for the sun.

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

Grandma Rose used to say to me,
“Feel the earth on your hands and knees.
Till your fingers through the soil ’til the time stands still,”
In Grandmother’s garden.
Joseph, Camille, and Alexandria—
In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
She tenders us, gentles us, nurtures us with care.
Born from the earth with water and air,
Born from the earth with water and air.
José from Mexico, Celine from France,
David, Mohammed, Sarah, and Hans,
Stanley, Tyler, Michael, and Collette,
Sergei, Kevin, Keiko from Japan,

In Grandmother’s garden, we are all one.
We are one, we are one.
In Grandmother’s garden, we are one.
Turning ’round the sun,
We are one.

—John Archambault